Monthly Archives: February 2014

The hurtful messages we send…

I recently sat down with a brother I have long admired for his ability to work with all kinds of people, after we ran into each other at a press conference. We decided to have lunch and catch up on our lives which led to the most interesting dialogue about women being targeted by crimes more than ever and the history around it for lack of a better term.

Because we were able to have honest conversations in ways that others may take offense to, I opened the Pandora’s box knowing he would jump right in there with me.
My comment was this: there are more men than ever who feel they have no desire to be protective of women and their reason is, in part, that so many women have been telling them for years, they don’t NEED a man to protect them, pay their bills or open their doors.

Now don’t get me wrong. I totally disagree with this stance but wanted to deconstruct some of the reasoning behind it.

It almost felt to me, that some women have lost the art of honoring the men around no matter what station in life they may be in. Some will even go so far as to not speak to men making under a certain salary.. Who will it harm to be cordial?

My friend agreed men are wired to protect and be a help mate but more women find themselves educated in ways that allows them to feel what, we truly can’t figure out.

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The end result, are men who feel
Women have lost the “soft edges” they have come to love and appreciate. Which then becomes ” they don’t need us so why bother trying to help them?”

Scary scenario when a woman is in trouble and there is no one around willing to stick their necks out and stand up for her.

We then got into the conversation about our own lives and the significant others within. I told him and could see he was surprised, that I had no issues whatsoever being submissive in my home to the one person who would guard me with his very life if needed. I also believe that it is my honoring of who he is, my appreciation of all he does and the willingness to support him in ways others may walk away from, that made him give that love back tenfold.

When I walk out my front door and it is time for business, then it’s game on. There is a time and a place for everything and I believe some of us don’t know when to shut certain things off in an effort to be seen as tough or no nonsense all the time.

I also make the conscious effort, to be cordial and respectful to the men I run into in my daily interactions. I may not always agree with them but would not deliberately make them feel less than a man to prove a point or make myself feel better.

My friend believes and I agree, that we need to sit at the table and have these honest conversations between men and women in a way that is constructive and yields results.

Until then, women will continue to be seen as expendable by those who feel we are worth less than nothing or we are fair game in this world.

There are some vile people in our midst, so please do not mistake this blog to mean trust everyone. Use Common sense and your intuition, to remain safe from predators and sociopaths.

Mothers play a serious role in all of this too so the next time you are angry with a man, please, try not to cuss about what he can’t do for you and demean him in front of the children . The message it sends to boys and girls are different, but equally destructive.

Let us work hard to be kind and see just how much of it is returned even in the worst circumstances. If I can get a perfect stranger to give up his seat, treat me like a lady and stop cursing in my presence with a simple look and a smile, you can too.
In lifting our men up, we lift ourselves up…

Enough said.

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Dust Bunnies and fuzzy math

We have consistently said that early childhood education is fundamental and without it, children continue to struggle through school. Never was that report more appropriate than after I had a conversation which left me scratching my head and looking at the phone sideways…

I called a friend who informed me that her child left for Basic Training in the Armed Forces and as we discussed the where, why and when, I asked when would he back from the training. To which she replied September. When did basic training ever last this long I asked and she replied it has always been 10 weeks which means September is when he would be back.

Now, help me out here; 10 weeks from today is 2 1/2 months which means somewhere in the middle of April he would return right?

I felt horrible for her because she really thought she was right. She had zero concept of addition and subtracting past basic numbers. She is fully cognitive and had no learning challenges as a child. Even worse, was her telling me years ago, she wished she could enjoy reading the way I did but she never read more than 5 pages ever and has not read a single book to completion.

Keep in mind, she is now close to fifty years of age.

When I inquired how did she make it through school this way, she said she was so good and quiet in class, her teachers kept promoting her until she graduated from High School.

The end result is a darling person who for all intents and purposes, would be considered a functioning illiterate.

I wish I could say she was one of a few that was failed horribly by the educational system; she is an indicator that has become more prevalent today than ever before.
Getting a good education in a solid setting has become the investment for those who can afford to live in a place where Districts are on tasks with the students who attend.

A lot of people and an incredibly flawed system failed her in ways she is still reaping all these years later and it is a not-so-gentle reminder that we must get our children started with basic numbers and words as soon as 18 months of age.

For those who have access to a solid education, please don’t squander the gift of knowledge that will open doors you can’t begin to fathom right now.

A good mind, is indeed a terrible thing to waste.

Enough said.

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why are you STILL here? Now THAT is the question…

Aaaargh!!!!  ” I need to graduate soon!”

This delightful statement came from the mouth of my 21 year old son who is slated to graduate from College in May 2014. I poked my head in his room against my better judgement and said coyly, “not soon enough for me buddy!  Hurry up already so you can get out and stay out for good this time!!”  He looked at me, smiled and shook his head all while he fully understood where I going with that statement..

Hang tight for a minute as I take you through the journey of getting a child in AND through college.  It was not a painless process and I am not talking about money either although we all know what it costs to keep a child in higher Education. There is a myriad of reasons so many children start but never finish college that has nothing to do with finances..

Four short years ago, we watched with joy as this first child of mine applied for his top schools, got into his favourite institution and had such “senioritis” at the end of his high school journey, I thought I would have to tie him down somewhere before he imploded with impatience.  All I could see was one down- one to go before my nest was empty and I began getting him prepared to leave my house, hopefully never to return except for holidays.

So off he went.  We got to the school, unloaded the cars and helped him to set up his dorm. I could see his brother getting quieter as each moment went by that took us closer to leaving his sibling on campus and away from him for the first time ever.  I could hardly help him because my eyes got fuzzy and this lump grew in my throat that no amount of swallowing could fix.  I held it together, we kissed him goodbye and as we traversed down that highway for the long drive home, his brother silently cried.  I consoled him by saying his brother would call or text often yada, yada, yada..

I walked in the house, curled up in my bed and cried for three solid days. No amount of words could console me and even as I write this piece, I feel the tears returning at the memory. My ex-husband made me laugh a tiny bit when he said ” stop the crying, he is fine. If he flunks out, we will both be crying at the thought of all that money down the drain!”  Men…. By ” family and friends day” on Campus, we were all a little better and by Thanksgiving, when he got home, I was so ready for him to leave because he had adapted to living on his own and drove me nuts.

He ran into a couple of snags dealing with campus cultural insensitivity but aside from that, he kept those grades up and developed a social life which included joining the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Year one and two were pretty easy.  We barely saw him and that worked just fine. The issue we did not foresee, was how much his leaving would affect his younger brother who spiralled in a way that affected his grades.  It was hellish on this end, trying to understand what was going on because he ( younger son) never alluded to what was bothering him until I had just had enough and grounded him for a really bad grade. That ended well once we had clarity and I would put him on a train to go and visit his older brother once in a while, which made him so happy.

Then, it happened. In October of year three, something Took place we had no clue about except when he came home for Thanksgiving, he was withdrawn and miserable.  No amount of asking resulted in an answer except this; ” I am so over being there. Can I just transfer to another campus?”  When I dug a little deeper, still no definitive answers, so we sent him back to school after the break with the solution that he would see his advisor and discuss his options for transferring. By the second week in December, his father and I received a call that stopped our hearts and without another thought, we both went flying up that highway to find him.  What we were told was gut wrenching to say the least and we made the decision on the spot, that he was to be transferred immediately after some discussion with him. The school was very helpful in part, because they were very aware of what happened and did not contact us. Their reason? These kids were over 18 and since nothing happened physically to our child, it was assumed all was well.

In short order, he was transferred to a campus near home and it was decided he would not get an apartment but stay with us until he was ready. He started classes on time, took all his tests, took courses over the summer and got a coveted job working for a company he always admired.  He has saved all his money while eating all my food, using all my electricity and amenities and found his way to the place where he is graduating on time before his 22nd birthday.

Some lessons we learned along the way that many parents could do well to heed:

  • Don’t cling as your child leaves for college but DO pay attention to what they may need
  • Give them room to explore and find new avenues of growth
  • Pay attention to simple signs that something may be wrong when they are not behaving in the manner you are accustomed to
  • Do not try to solve all their problems.  Let them find their way with Advisors etc. We allowed our son to make those decisions and it empowered him to be his own advocate when he needed support.
  • See how the siblings left behind are faring. Chances are, this truly affects them too.
  • Pray and do not stop praying when they are out of your sight.  Things happen in Colleges that parents are not often aware of until it is too late.
  • Keep your child grounded with solid expectations. It works.

The time is now upon us where my youngest child is getting ready to head off to College and this time, armed with what I do know, I can’t wait to get rid of him too.. Hallelujah for the empty nest!!

enough said.

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It begs the question….

Recently, a well known radio Disc Jockey called and asked this question of me; “Do you think children are being socially promoted by schools even when it is clear they are not ready to move forward and just how prevalent did I think this behaviour was in School Districts across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania?’  What ensued was a discussion rich with data and comparisons from one  State to next, which then led to the public school system, what was being expected of the children within it and these new mandates every few “seconds.” The family that understands how to navigate their way through, will have successful children no matter what the income level and Education of the parent/guardians. It boils down to simply this; if you are visible, it makes a huge difference for your child.

 

Our discussion then led to the often perceived “low expectations” of children of color, especially if they enter a new school from an urban setting. Time and again, we see children who were tested as gifted, being questioned about the authenticity of said title  and made to go through that process all over again which is not only demoralizing, it is often wrong. We discussed how parents get discouraged an opt to leave their bright child in a regular setting instead of forcing the issue.

And then we went there.

The subject of well educated parents of color who moved into the suburban settings, bought the big home, had their children in a great school district but are never visible. Unless of course, it was football, basketball or any sporting event where they are found in large numbers, cheering on their athletes. If one tries to locate those same parents for many other activities, they are often difficult to find.

Whomp.Whomp.  We both acknowledged that not all parents are this way obviously but is incredibly noticeable.

 

I could not disagree.  I tried to, but history says otherwise.  Which begged the question; why is that?  Are we still in the ” I paid good money to live here and the schools better educate my child?” Or is it ” I am really not feeling comfortable with asking certain things or knowing where to go, so let me not show up at all?” It could even be just total apathy on many levels.  One thing is for certain; Many parents are not as visible for PTA or many school held meetings on any topic that may benefit the children but the numbers are worse for parents of color.

My youngest son has a role in the school play and when parents were asked to volunteer a few hours on a Saturday for set building etcetera, I bounced in only to see I was one of one. It stayed that way for the entire time I was there too. Oh by the way?  He is in the 12th grade.  Parent involvement should not cease at Elementary school.

 

For well  over a decade now, we have been beating the consistent drum on parental engagement and have been known to hold schools accountable when history have shown them to discourage family participation, and families where there has been apathy that leads to, in my humble opinion, unnecessary suffering of their children.  If research has clearly shown that all you need to do as a parent is be visible 30 minutes a month in word or deed, what stops us from doing so?  Can we then totally blame the schools for what is ailing our children who we clearly know, follow more of what we do and less of what we say?

Can we then totally blame an institution for our children and their lack of progress?  The old adage ” The squeaky wheel gets oiled” is still very true; we need  more of you to be visible through emails, phone calls, volunteering from home or in school and just any simple task that leads to the educators knowing who you are.

 

So while we are in the middle of holding schools accountable, take a little time to hold our own feet to the fire as well.

Enough said.